Airlines band together to fight flight tax

"We appreciate the magnitude of the task before you: to reduce the national debt for our country and for future generations," the group of airline chiefs wrote in a letter to supercommittee co-chairs Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPublic option fades with little outcry from progressives Senate GOP blocks bill to combat gender pay gap OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump |  Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps MORE (D-Wash.).

But just as quickly, the airline CEOs said aviation was too important to face higher taxes.

"Knowing the importance of infrastructure and connectivity to our cities and states in enabling economic recovery and development, and job creation, we ask that you refrain from proposing increased taxes on the airline industry, and our passengers and shippers," the letter to Hensarling and Murray said. "These increases will have significant unintended consequences that you may not have considered, including the loss of passenger and cargo air service to small and medium-sized communities, pressure on fares and the loss of 181,000 American jobs."

The airlines have argued that they already struggle to turn profits at their current tax levels, which the CEOs said in their letter higher than "alcohol and tobacco, products that are taxed to discourage their use.

"Aviation today pays 17 different federal taxes, totaling $17 billion annually," the CEO's letter said. "Taxes on a typical $300 round-trip ticket total more than $60, or 20 percent of the ticket price."

The CEOs added that it would be very difficult to ask their customers to pay more.

"Contrary to popular belief, we cannot pass all of our costs along, due to price elasticity," they said. "Additional taxes on this already overburdened industry will translate directly into reduced revenues and reductions in airline service, disproportionately impacting service to smaller communities on routes that are least profitable, and translating to job losses across the industry."

The letter was signed by the CEOs of

Alaska Airlines; American Airlines; ASTAR Air Cargo; Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings; Delta Air Lines; Evergreen International Airlines; FedEx Express; Hawaiian Airlines; JetBlue Airways; Southwest Airlines; United and Continental airlines; UPS and US Airways.